Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity


Most schools participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), a federal assistance program regulated by the USDA. You can learn more about the NSLP and its history by clicking here.

One component of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA) established new guidelines for school food service, including changes to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP). The guidelines for the NSLP went into effect for the 2012-2013 school year.

The National School Lunch program made the following changes:

  • Calories: the average calories per meal each week now varies by grade, with different calorie limits for each grade category: K-5 (550-650 calories), 6-8 (600-700 calories), 9-12 (750-850 calories).
  • Fruits and vegetables are now considered separate meal components.
  • Offer versus Serve Policy: Schools must offer all five school lunch components of fruit, vegetables, meat/meat alternate, grain, and milk. Students must select at least 3 of the 5 items, but one of the items selected must be a fruit or vegetable.
  • Vegetables offered must come from a variety of subgroups each week: dark green vegetables, red/orange vegetables, beans & peas, starchy vegetables, and other.
  • Whole grains: By school year 2014-2015 all grains must be whole grain rich, which means at least 51% whole grain.
  • Milk: Low-fat or fat-free plain milk can be offered, but only fat-free flavored milk can be offered to students.
  • Reduce sodium content of school meals gradually over 10 years. The final target for school year 2022-2023 is a 25-50% reduction in sodium content from baseline.
  • Saturated fat: This remained the same from the old to new guidelines; lunches and breakfasts on average over the school week must contain less than 10% of total calories from saturated fat.
  • Trans fat: Eliminate trans fats from school meals.